Value Added

Been taking some slack about my comment that publishers who didn’t see enhanced ebooks as immediately profitable were probably right, so I want to take a second to set the record straight:

– First of all, and most importantly:  I think it’s okay to make things and to be creative even when it’s not profitable.  That’s how you discover new audiences and new forms of expression and new markets.

– There are several arenas where enhanced ebooks are profitable.  Children’s books, for instance, are doing gangbusters.  Shorts are also doing well (see David Carr’s piece on the Atavist).  And add-supported multimedia apps are showing enough promise to get the big networks involved.

– Multimedia eReaders, like the Arcade Sunshine platform, are only now coming to market with enough power and versatility to be used easily, and in a cost-efficient manner.

– As Peter Colingridge of Enhanced Editions points out:  Enhanced eBooks are an excellent way for publishers to show valued authors that they care.

– The market is brand new!  Have you tried to buy an iPad 2 recently?  It’s really hard!  These things are sold out and Apple has a 4-6 week backorder…  I can imagine that these things are going out of style anytime soon.

That said, if you’re looking for a straight-ahead business proposition, multimedia ebooks are probably not the way to go.

When my grandfather finished up his Phd in Political Science from the University of Chicago, he finally mustered up enough courage to schedule a meeting with his mentor-professor…  He told the professor how much he had learned from his time in America, how he had worked so hard to get to this point and that, finally, he was ready to return to Iran and use all the knowledge he had gained for the good of his country.

His mentor listened to my grandfather and, after a long pause, replied:

“You should open a shoe-store.  Everybody needs shoes.”


Galleycat Interview

Sat down with scholar/gentleman Jason Boog of Galleycat the other day and he gave us a very nice write-up in Galleycat…  Immediately after the article came out, however, Dan saw that a couple placeholder buttons had made it into the screenshot, and that made him sad.  The final version looks way better!

What do you call these things?

It seems like ‘enhanced eBook’ is winning the neologism contest.  I heard this piece on NPR yesterday and they seem to use ‘enhanced eBook’ and ‘eBook app’ and ‘multimedia ebook’ pretty interchangeably, with the first in that list by far the most common.  Way back in November, I remember having this conversation, on email or with a whiteboard in front of us, about what to call multimedia storytelling…  Every suggestion seemed to be a little worse than the last.

I guess there’s nothing wrong with ‘enhanced eBook’ but, somehow, I don’t really see that catching on.  Also, enhanced eBooks, to me, signify a specific type of ‘multimedia ebook’ that is distributed through iBooks or the Kindle store.  There’s also an argument that multimedia books should just be called ‘books’ — because as print becomes increasingly digitized, many books will naturally begin to incorporate multimedia content (after all, we don’t call books with photos in them by another name.  Well, unless they’re photo books).

Personally, I like ‘multimedia book’ or ‘multimedia text’ — but if a really cool name came up, I’d be open to it… Too bad ‘snooki’ is already taken.

But the market’s not there…

Is, along with its variation,  “But the market’s not there, yet,” the most common reaction to multimedia publishing. And you can’t really deny the numbers that support this view…  Even the most successful multimedia apps created by big companies with substantial budgets and huge marketing campaigns (I’m thinking of the JFK: 50 Days app, for example) are not breaking even (although, perhaps, that’s why they’re not breaking even…)  So is multimedia publishing just another distraction, like the brief love-affair with CD-ROM publishing in the mid-1990s?

I don’t think so.  Unlike the PC and CD-ROM, tablet devices are the first true multimedia instrument.  Because reading on a tablet is just as comfortable as reading print, I think it’s fairly safe to assume that there will be a significant migration from the printed page to the tablet.  When this happens, not all of these printed materials will incorporate images, videos, games and social-networking, but many of them will — if only for the reason that they can.  And as new platforms (like ours) come out to allow people to integrate multimedia into their  narratives, the narratives themselves will begin to change…  They will begin to be ‘written’ as multimedia, rather than as pure text.

Obviously, this won’t happen overnight, but as ‘professional storytellers,’ we’re really interested in taking part of this transformation.  That’s why we started Arcade Sunshine — even if the market’s not (quite) there yet…

Here on Earth

The Here on Earth app has really come together over the past couple weeks — Patrick and I have been blessed with a great crew of producers, designers, editors and interns.  A special shout-out goes the crew at Element 84…  As the printed page becomes increasingly digital, creating a multimedia book is just as collaborative a process as creating a film or a TV show — editors and publishers are involved, of course, but good programmers are just as much a part of the creative process.  Dan and the crew at Element 84 are responsive, not reactive; dillagent, not dogmatic.  We couldn’t have done it without ‘em.